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Scotland seek defensive improvement

Published 18/08/2015

Grant Gilchrist will skipper Scotland against Italy
Grant Gilchrist will skipper Scotland against Italy

Scotland coach Matt Taylor has warned the Dark Blues they must get better at the back before the World Cup.

But Vern Cotter's defensive czar insists there is still plenty of time for the Scots to get things right before they kick off their Pool B campaign against Japan in Gloucester on September 23.

While there were plenty of encouraging signs in attack during Saturday's warm-up Test with Ireland in Dublin, Taylor was left looking on with frustration as his side handed the host four simple scores to lose out 28-22.

The former Scotland A cap is refusing to panic, but admits improvements will have to be made when the team heads to Turin for their second pre-tournament workout against Italy this Saturday.

He said: " We were disappointed with the way we conceded some of the tries - two came from line-outs, one from scrum and one from a kick return.

"The main reason we didn't get a victory was that we didn't execute getting out of our zone very well. Part of winning games is making sure once you score you keep putting pressure back on the opposition.

"We've been training together for a number of weeks now so we should have been better than we were.

"It's important we get to look at guys under pressure in these test match environments.

"It's a few issues, but again for me, and speaking to the group, its nothing that we shouldn't be able to solve pretty quickly."

He added: "When I looked at the stats, Ireland nearly made as many mistakes as we did and they are the Six Nations champions and ranked second in the world.

"As much as you train together, until you get into a game you don't see the stress of that.

"So we all expected mistakes but we are looking to improve every week. We would love a perfect performance every week but we have three games still to play and we are not expected to be at our peak just yet."

Saturday's disappointment in the Aviva Stadium means the Scots have yet to taste victory in 2015 after six straight defeats.

And Taylor admits he would be worried if that record was not improved on by the time the squad heads to England.

He said: "Would it concern me? Yeah it would. But all we can do is prepare as well as we can, hopefully execute and hope the result comes from that."

Grant Gilchrist, meanwhile, will finally get the chance to lead out his country on Saturday.

The giant Edinburgh lock has been named skipper for the Azzurri clash 10 months after injury cost him the captaincy ahead of last year's autumn internationals.

But Taylor added: "He was an easy choice for skipper. He hasn't had a lot of rugby over the last year through injury but he performed really well in Dublin and we would like to see him back that performance up.

"By giving him the captaincy role, it's a really good opportunity for him to lead the team."

Cotter, meanwhile, has made 11 changes to the squad which crossed the Irish Sea last weekend as he looks to run the rule over more of his World Cup hopefuls at the Stadio Olimpico.

Of the changes, nine involve forwards - with Adam Ashe, John Hardie, Alasdair Strokosch, Hamish Watson, Kevin Bryce, Alasdair Dickinson, Richie Gray, Stuart McInally and William Nel replacing John Barclay, Hugh Blake, Blair Cowan and David Denton, Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Ryan Grant, Rob Harley and Jon Welsh.

The backs are kept relatively alike, with only the uncapped duo Damien Hoyland and Rory Hughes joining the group in place of Dougie Fife and Tim Visser.

The Turin Test is the first of two back-to-back matches against Italy, with the return leg at BT Murrayfield to come on August 29. Cotter will then announce the final 31-man World Cup squad before concluding preparations against France in Paris on September 5.

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